Allusion vs. elusion vs. illusion

An allusion is an indirect reference to something. An illusion is an erroneous perception or belief. Elusion is the act of escaping. Examples An allusion is an indirect reference. There are other words for direct references, including simply reference. These writers use allusion well: Anyone familiar with the works of noted author John Feinstein knows that title could be an allusion to his 1980s book about a legendary college basketball coach and the Indiana program. [Boston … [Read more...]

O vs. oh

In today's English, oh is an interjection used to express a range of emotions, including pain, sorrow, hesitation, and recognition. Most people will never have use for O, which is used in poetic apostrophe, usually in classical addresses, always preceding the name of or pronoun representing the person being formally addressed. Examples Oh is usually set off from its surrounding sentence by commas. If it comes in the middle of a sentence, it doesn't need to be capitalized. Here are a few … [Read more...]

Rapt vs. wrapt

Rapt is an adjective meaning deeply engrossed or deeply moved. Wrapt is an archaic past participle of wrap. It was fairly common as recently as the middle 19th century, but it gradually fell out of use through the second half of that century and into the 20th. Today we use wrapped as the past tense and past participle of wrap, so we have no use for wrapt. Examples It was standing room only in the vast space of Kelvingrove and an audience held rapt by a performance of masterly control. [Herald … [Read more...]

Addicting vs. addictive

Addictive means causing or tending to cause addiction. The present-participle adjective addicting is technically synonymous with addictive, but there's no reason to use addicting when addictive is a perfectly functional and even versatile word. The trend is to use addicting in reference to nonaddictive things that engender repeated indulgence (e.g., a great television show or a video game), but there's no reason addictive can't fill this role. The use of addicting in place of addictive is a … [Read more...]

Secede vs. succeed

The verb succeed means (1) to come after and take the place of, or (2) to accomplish something desired or intended. Secede means to withdraw formally from membership in an organization. The two are occasionally confused. If it helps, think of succeed as a synonym of follow and secede as a synonym of withdrawal. Neither correspondence is exact, but they're close enough to aid memory. Also, although the words are close in sound, it helps to remember that their pronunciations are different. … [Read more...]

Downfall vs. downside

A downfall is (1) a cause of sudden ruin, (2) a sudden ruin, or (3) a shower of rain or snow, especially a heavy one. A downside is (1) a disadvantageous aspect, (2) a downward tendency, or (3) the lower side of something. In web and news writing, downfall appears in place of downside surprisingly often. The reasons for the confusion are obvious---both words start with down and tend to denote negative things---but in their conventional senses the words have no common ground. Examples For … [Read more...]

Heroin vs. heroine

Heroin is an addictive narcotic derived from morphine. A heroine is a female protagonist in a work of fiction. Although heroine is traditionally the feminine equivalent of hero, hero is now a gender-neutral term for a person who acts with extraordinary courage. Heroine still appears from time to time in reference to female real-life heros, but it is increasingly rare.  Example Most 21st-century writers have no qualms about using hero in reference to a female, as happens here: She is a hero to … [Read more...]

Deprecate vs. depreciate

To depreciate is (1) to lessen in value, or (2) to lower the value of something, especially by falsely undervaluing, disparaging, or belittling it. The word is most common in financial contexts. Deprecate traditionally means to express disapproval of, but over the last century it has gained another sense---to disparage or belittle---that makes it roughly synonymous with depreciate in that word's second sense. The newer sense of deprecate is what's meant in the common phrasal … [Read more...]

As yet, as of yet

The common phrases as yet and as of yet are wordy for yet or still (or so far, which often works as a shorter alternative to as of yet). Using one of these phrases is not an error, but they are verbose. Examples In these examples, as yet and as of yet could be replaced with yet or so far: Not a lot of info about the theme of the video has been released as of yet but sources tell me it has echoes of JAY-Z's 99 Problems. [The Sun] As of yet, there's no word when the series will be back. … [Read more...]


Because much functions as an adverb (in addition to being a noun and an adjective), the adverbial suffix -ly adds nothing, and muchly is a superfluous word. It was common several centuries ago, but in modern English much has taken over all of muchly's territory, and muchly now has an archaic and sometimes humorous ring. … [Read more...]

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